It’s far away from the busy surf centers of Central California and Southern California. It’s colder, sharkier and harsher. The waves are thicker, bigger and less forgiving. It also has a lot less people competing for the many waves that break along the northern section of California coastline that runs from the “North Jetty” up to the county line near Prairie Creek State Park. You don’t travel to North Humboldt to score the best waves of your life. But if you’re here when the ocean is at its best, you’ll never forget the experience.
From north to south, surfing in Humboldt starts with the opportunity to surf the rugged beachbreaks at Gold Bluffs Beach. It’s a long, slow drive to get here from Highway 101, but like most of the “seldom surfed” breaks in the area the chances of you surfing this one alone are high. This area is also known as prime elk habitat and features the wildly impressive “Fern Canyon” that can’t be missed if you make a visit.
Heading south, the sandbars of “The Lagoons” offer some of the most picturesque surfing in the county. If it’s small, clean and there’s light wind (ideally from the E) glassy perfection might be the result. Generally that’s not the case, but in summer and during seasonal lulls in swell (also not typical unless it’s summer) this is a gem of a place worth checking out, which is actually four separate lagoons spread out over 9 miles of coastline.
Next down the line is Patrick’s Point State Park. A huge left-handed point break that fires in winter, this area in another beautiful spot with serene campgrounds and rock climbing opportunities. The lethal sandbars of Agate Beach are also found here. South of Patrick’s Point is where the majority of surfers paddle out in Humboldt County North.
Trinidad State Beach is inconsistent, much like the overall surf conditions found in the area, but when NW winds are blowing it’s a great place to give a check. Through the town of Trinidad, take Scenic Drive and slowly make your way further south past the fickle left at Luffenholtz Beach until you get to Hooda Point, one of the two cornerstone surf zones in Humboldt County North.
The lead shot in the piece shows “Camel Rock” going off when waves peel off the camel shaped rocks in the photo, producing a pointbreak style right that’s as good as anywhere in the state when it’s on. While that doesn’t happen as consistently as places like Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz, the beachbreak a little further inside is more consistent, as is the stretch of beach to the south known as “Moonstone”. It’s surfable at any tide, though snappier when its lower. For miles on end, from “Moonstone” through Clam Beach on down to Mad River Beach you’ll find empty peaks just waiting for a visit. You might feel like a piece of shark bait the more south you surf past “Moonstone”, but you can be sure to surf solo or with just your crew if that’s what you’re looking for.
Once you get past McKinleyville you’ll approach the redwood caked, universitycentric, zen center known as Arcata. From here the Samoa Peninsula on down to the “North Jetty” provides the remaining surf options in Humboldt County North. It’s common to see a good number of surfers out at “Power Poles”, “Bay St.” and further down the peninsula if there are waves. But if it’s good or there’s a sizable swell with cleanliness running, the remaining breaks of “Bunkers”, “North Jetty” and the “Harbor Entrance” will be going off.
Good luck paddling out at “Bunkers” when it’s big, but when this wave is on it’s as beautiful as they come. The “Harbor Entrance” is only for the most savvy big wave riders. Tow-ins occur here when conditions permit and if paddling the currents and extremely heavy rights and lefts will keep all but the hardest chargers at bay. The “North Jetty” is arguably the most consistent, coveted and surfed wave in the area. Hooda Point might see more overall surf traffic, but this is a wave for the surfers looking for the highest performance wave around. Long, hollow lefts and sharp, barreling rights when it’s on, this break holds swell and is powerful.
The thing about Humboldt County is it’s huge. The whole southern portion of the coast has several even lesser surfed breaks than its neighbor to the north, and driving from north to south might take you a few hours depending on where you’re going. Locals are protective about their breaks, but bring respect and you’ll feel it back ten-fold. This is a magical part of the California coastline and a magical place in general crowned with exceptionally good people. If you’re an intrepid, hearty surf traveler, you simply can’t skip out on this section of California Highway 101.